Sidley Austin LLP has long been a pioneer in workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives. We value diversity among our lawyers and clients and have long been actively involved in the diverse communities in which we live and work. Our mission is to continually attract, retain and promote to partnership and leadership outstanding lawyers who reflect the global marketplace and the communities that we serve.
The Diversity Committee develops, recommends and implements policies and programs to support the recruitment, retention and advancement of lawyers of color and of diverse ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, nationalities, disabilities, religions, and other diverse backgrounds.
Sidley’s New York Associate Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and CRPW collaborated to host the panel “Forging Pathways: The Advancement of Diverse Women in Law.” The discussion explored the challenges that women of color face in the legal profession. Panelists included María Meléndez (New York), Fiona Philip (D.C.), Laura Barzilai (New York), Miki Kamijyo, chief compliance officer and legal counsel, GreenOak Real Estate LP, and Nicole Lazarre, senior vice president and general counsel, National Urban League. Eno Usoro (New York), co-chair of the New York Associate Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, moderated the discussion.
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Summer Associates from our California offices visited Alcatraz Island during a two-day retreat hosted by the San Francisco Diversity Committee.
The Diversity Committee oversees and implements programming to help diverse lawyers thrive at the firm and in the profession. To support the progress of the firm’s diverse lawyers, Sidley holds “Tips for Success” programs, social and educational events, and annual diversity and inclusion town halls.
The Diversity Committee supports our diverse partners as they grow at the firm. A business development mentoring program pairs diverse partners with senior partners in firm leadership to design business plans, meet clients and potential clients, identify speaking or writing opportunities and otherwise develop their practices.
Bi-monthly videoconferences give diverse partners a forum to cross-market their practices and to support each other’s efforts to develop new business leads. Other programs support diverse partners’ direct business development efforts.
Support for Diverse Associates
The Diversity Mentoring Program, overseen by the Diversity Committee, pairs minority and LGBT associates with senior partners in their practice areas for work assignment, feedback, coaching, skill building, and client relationship development purposes. With over 170 pairings in eight U.S. offices, this program is designed to ensure that our minority and LGBT associates receive skill building and challenging assignments. A survey of mentees and mentors reveals a high level of satisfaction with this program.
In conjunction with the Diversity Mentoring Program, the Diversity Committee hosts internal programs—some for diverse associates and some for all associates—featuring speakers on topics such as paths to partnership at Sidley, building one’s professional biography, networking for associates, and other topics.
Sidley encourages and supports diverse associates’ attendance at events hosted by diverse bar organizations or nonprofit organizations. Our associates have attended the annual conferences of the Hispanic National Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the International Association of Korean Lawyers, the California Minority Counsel Program and others.
To help our minority associates connect with one another and to develop stronger networks inside the firm, we piloted several programs in 2013 that connected groups of associates via videoconference. We have established Associates’ Diversity Committees in Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston. These Committees hold quarterly lunches with diverse associates, raise programming suggestions to the Diversity Committee, and help diverse associates connect to various parts of the firm. Our Diversity Committees also hold social, cultural and educational events at which diverse associates can build friendships and meet firm leaders.
Diversity training, support and resources are available at all levels of the firm. In 2012, Sidley began a substantial internal education program for partners and associates that focused on unconscious, or implicit, bias and cultural competency. The program has reached 60 percent or more of our U.S. lawyers to date. The Diversity Committee has also conducted partner training on providing feedback and mentoring across differences.
In 2012-13, Sidley’s London office rolled out training for all partners and employees around the issues of “Diversity, Inclusion, Equality and Respect.” Through role playing and discussion, groups addressed issues of gender, age and religion. The same program was also held in our Brussels and Geneva offices.
Annual Diversity and Inclusion Town Halls in each U.S. office report on firm demographics, programs and educational initiatives while offering an opportunity for feedback. We also conduct presentations for and with diverse lawyers on subjects such as business development as a diverse associate, “executive presence,” and using social media in professional and business development.
Sidley’s commitment to diversity and inclusion extends to issues affecting LGBT communities. Sidley was one of the first large law firms to grant parity in healthcare, leave and other employee benefits for same-sex domestic partners internationally. Our non-discrimination policy forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and, in 2007, was amended to explicitly name “gender identity and expression” as a protected category. In 2014, Sidley introduced firmwide gender transition guidelines that are intended to support lawyers and staff addressing gender identity, gender expression, and/or gender transition.
Openly LGBT lawyers practice in all of our domestic offices as well as in non-U.S. offices, serve on the firm’s leadership and administrative committees, and are contributing members of LGBT legal organizations.
The Diversity Committee has taken a number of steps to combat social isolation and help new LGBT lawyers integrate themselves into the firm and legal profession. The committee hosts local social and educational events to support lawyers who identify as LGBT. Quarterly teleconferences for all LBGT lawyers facilitate cross-office networking and business development.
Our diversity efforts extend far beyond the firm's doorway. Sidley’s Diversity Committee works closely with organizations that support minority and LGBT lawyers and diverse students in high school, college and law school. The firm participated in drafting, and is one of the original signatories to, the Statement of Diversity Principles adopted by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York in 2003. We are also signatories to the 2005 Statement of Goals and Principles on Minority Hiring, Retention and Promotion issued by the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
From left: Puja Narain (mentee), Zarine Alam, Melissa Ortega (mentee) and Lakeisha Andress at the Chicago 1L Diversity Mentorship Program Reception.
Recent accolades for Sidley’s diversity initiatives include:
- Named of the of Best Law Firms for Women, Working Mother
- “Excellence in Diversity Award,” Discover Financial Law Department
- “Outstanding Firm in Advancing Gender Diversity and Inclusion,” Chambers Women in Law Awards: USA
- Gold Certification, Women in Law Empowerment Forum
- Named in the Yale Law Women’s 2018 Top Ten Family Friendly Firms Report for category honors in “Leadership & Promotions: At Least 50% of Attorneys Promoted to Equity Partner in 2017 Were Women”
- “Perfect” 100 score, Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) report
- Diversity Award, MetLife
- Law Firm Award of Excellence, Freddie Mac Legal Division
- “Perfect” 100 score, Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) report
- Ranked #14 on Vault’s list of the “25 Best Law Firms for Overall Diversity”
- A Top Law Firm for LGBTQ Equality, Equality Illinois
- Los Angeles associate Francis Lam was named to the National LGBT Bar Association’s best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 list.
- New York associate Melissa Colon-Bosolet was named to the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Top Lawyers Under 40 list.
- “Perfect” 100 score, Human Rights Campaign’s CEI report
- 25 “Best Law Firms for Overall Diversity,” Vault
- Top Law Firm for LGBT Equality, Equality Illinois
- Law Firm Honoree, Dominican Bar Association 13th Annual Scholarship Gala
- Allstate General Counsel’s “Excellence in Diversity Award”
- Dallas partner Sara Garcia Duran was selected for the 2016 Fellows Program of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD), a national organization of general counsel and managing partners. This structured initiative is built to increase diversity at the leadership levels of the nation’s law firms and corporate legal departments. Previous Sidley Fellows include Josh Hill (2015), Anny Huang (2014), Daron Watts (2013) and Jose Sanchez (2012).
- Washington, D.C. partner Kwaku Akowuah was named the Washington Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40.